Off The Couch


I took a break from writing for a bit because I was worried dwelling on my medical issues would make me go a little crazy-that I would get obsessive or depressed if I focused writing time on them. Well, I was wrong. I forgot that getting thoughts out of my head and onto paper helps me sort through things and then, more importantly, LET THEM GO.


I don’t feel well. I feel like throwing up multiple times a day and try my hardest not to throw up, so that my blood sugar doesn’t drop even more than it usually does. I get dizzy out of nowhere and am scared to drive when that happens. My eyesight gets blurry and I can’t read until it clears up. My energy levels are exceedingly low: the other day I couldn’t even manage to pick up my walking pace when I was getting pelted by a cold rainstorm. Most of my days are filled with a very easy task then twice as long resting. Or, I’ve been up in the middle of the night and because of low blood sugar, or dizziness, or nausea have been unable to go back to sleep. Those days are filled with sleep, and nothing more.

It can be depressing. I want my life back. I want the simple things of my life back, like driving to the store to shop without being worried I’ll need to call someone to pick me up if I get sick. I want to get absorbed in a project and miss my feeding time by a half an hour without having my body crash out. I want to be able to problem solve this-I am an excellent detective, normally, and am able through research, soul-searching and data-plotting to figure out the root cause of issues. I want to be able to read when I want. I want to eat a cookie. I want to do something with myself besides passively absorbing food and TV on the couch.

It can make me anxious. I am fairly cautious by nature. I try to be very conscientious about taking care of myself on time, or researching and examining my habits to tweak them for the better. I have become worried that I might pass out somewhere, so that has been the driving force of my decisions for the last few months. As the dizziness increased, so did this fear over the last few weeks. My mission lately has been trying to avoid that.

I won’t get answers until I see an endocrinologist in January, if even then. I feel depressed and anxious that I won’t be able to get my life back until late January at the earliest and there is a possibility that this state is my permanent new normal. The doctor might not be able to tell me much of anything.

Borne of that feeling, I pleaded with their office (after another sleepless night) to see me sooner. The nurse gave me hope for a moment and said I might be able to squeak in an early morning or late afternoon time slot, but that if I really felt that bad I should go to urgent care and have them send paperwork over. I harbored the illusion that if I was a good patient and did what was asked of me, maybe I would be able to see the specialist. That obstacles might be cleared.

I hesitated for a morning, realizing that the urgent care people would not be able to do any tests that would show anything illuminating to the endocrinologist. Then I felt very, very ill again. So ill that I thought, “This might be it, this might finally be the night I spend in the ER with an IV in my arm and triage nurses not knowing what to do with me.” I decided to go after getting the boys from school, packing medications in my purse that I might need in the morning if it came to that.

We went. Everything I did or said, or had done for the last few months or the last few years, got turned around as a way to prove that I was just a crazy hypochondriac. The doctor, this horrible man I wanted to punch in the face, had no intention of listening. He told me with a smirk that I didn’t look sick. He told me that my fibromyalgia is a disease of exclusion only (I told him we had checked out almost everything else) and that it was close to being considered a psychiatric disorder, not a “real” one. He seemed cruelly amused that I took so many supplements, that I self-diagnosed a dairy intolerance. He told me that I needed a doctor to diagnose my hypoglycemia, implying that I was imagining this problem (I did have a doctor diagnose it). When I showed him my records of my blood sugar, the physical proof I had collected to ensure that I would not have a doctor think I was just imagining problems because I was a bored housewife, he chastised me for testing too often, for being far too preoccupied. That I was causing myself an anxiety disorder. I started crying, because I had not come to a doctor to be picked apart, and disbelieved and almost outright mocked. That fueled the fire, because then the discussion became all about how to alleviate depression and anxiety. He smirked when my blood pressure and temp were normal. He made sure I knew where the closest psychiatric ward was, because that’s who could actually help me. He asked if I was suicidal, and condescendingly reassured me that I had “plenty to live for.” I hate this man. I don’t use hate lightly, but I hate this man.

This horrendous waste of my time got me no closer to seeing a real specialist. It made me nervous all over again to talk to any new health professional and exponentially increased my fear of being taken seriously or ever finding out what is actually wrong. The only good to come from it was that I realized, in getting so furiously angry, my symptoms felt a little better. The adrenaline boost from having to physically restrain myself from hurting him, to argue passionately for myself against him, felt better than the passivity I had been using to conserve my energy. I’m using that information about myself today to crawl away from my recent coping methods, since it hasn’t served me well anyways even though I thought it would.

And it helped me clarify for myself that of course I have been anxious, and depressed. He wasn’t wrong to see that in me. But I have every right to feel that way, and that I have a physiological problem that has been life-limiting. I do not have a psychosomatic disorder that is causing physical ailments. And you know what even if I did, screw him. Whatever the cause of my feeling so sick, I did feel incredibly sick and he was cruel to me when I came to him for help.

How big of an asshole is someone is who uses normal emotional responses against a person? How big a dick can a person be to use emotional pain as a reason to dismiss a person’s credibility? How much of a douchebag is someone who decides another person has nothing worthwhile to say, especially when he is in a position of authority over them?

At least, after last night I got my anger back, and a way to get up off the couch.

Tiny Bites

big bowl pomegranate

The bowl of little red jewels caught the light, the reward for nearly a half an hour of preparation. Pomegranates require patience. Once scored you can peel back the tough outer layer and begin to use your hands as claws pulling sections apart. Submerging the whole fruit under water, you can delicately loosen the gems from their white pith moorings and let them sink gently to the bottom of the bowl. Some will fall easily without bursting. Some will require finesse, like wiggling a baby tooth loose from pink-red gums. Some arils will split under too much pressure or when they catch the edge of your nail, but there are thousands upon thousands left to pick from. Like fish eggs, we assume so many are created because inevitably so many will be lost along the way. The whole lot is drained though a fine mesh, and the work continues picking out the blemished and the burst, rescuing the ones that need the last bits of white scraped off their bottoms. Then they are ready to eat.

I worried about this Thanksgiving. My body is dysfunctional in that way that means specialist doctors with extensive waitlists, daily confusion as to what healthy can look like for me, the possibility that something is very wrong or that no one will really know what the problem is. Until the cause of that dysfunction is uncovered, most of the canon of holiday food is actively dangerous to me if I lose my inhibitions and eat too much. Candied sweet potatoes and stuffing, mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce, cocktails and pecan pie are only safe for me in .01 parts per million, like arsenic. Turkey and green beans are acceptable. I worried about how empty and sparse my plate would look. That that emptiness might feel so much like sadness, or grief.

I worried that all the time it takes to make all these things, the hours and hours of peeling and mashing and sautéing would feel like masochism. Like deprivation. Like resentment of the people I love for being able to enjoy these things when I couldn’t. I worried that my love of cooking was purely selfish and greedy, that I was able to indulge my gluttony by it, but didn’t enjoy serving other people no matter how much I care for them.

Worse yet, I worried that my family would be able to see the sadness and selfishness flash across my face. The twin commandments I placed on myself, to be truthful and to be loving, were going to be compromised either one way or another. I didn’t want to lie, nor did I want to pout in envy, and I was quite convinced that at least one would be unavoidable.

As I worked through the process of freeing the pomegranate arils with my oldest son, as I shopped and cooked and cooked and cooked, I was happily surprised that I didn’t feel unhappy at all. The work was as satisfying as it had always been. I felt happy to make, and make, and make without hope of more than a mouthful of each treat. Without the expectation of tangible reward. And I was absolutely relieved to find out that I could be content that my loved ones could have something I couldn’t. The frustration I anticipated in myself dissolved before it materialized.

I had a beautifully happy Thanksgiving, where I got to find out that I still love cooking, I still love my friends and family more than my gluttony, I still can enjoy life with just a taste of this or that, I can be more than my self-pity.

Persephone, the goddess of springtime, spends part of each year as the Queen of the Underworld. We have one month of winter for each pomegranate seed she ate while in the keep of Hades, her kidnapper. As I allowed myself just a few arils out of the thousands we harvested for Thanksgiving, I let the juice burst into my mouth one by one. I was happy with my few, and thought ruefully that four months of winter was more than enough. Too many pomegranate seeds and spring might never come again. But the temptation to have at least a few is too much to pass up altogether, especially when winter, in all its coziness and closeness, is pretty wonderful.

4 pomegranates